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April 2022

Feds extend COVID public health emergency another three months

The United States on Wednesday renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, allowing millions of Americans to keep getting free tests, vaccines and treatments for at least three more months (Source: “U.S. renews COVID-19 public health emergency,” Reuters, April 13).

The public health emergency was initially declared in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began. It has been renewed each quarter since and was due to expire on April 16.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a statement said it was extending the public health emergency and that it will give states 60 days notice prior to termination or expiration.


FDA meets with states over plans to import drugs from Canada

The FDA has started discussions with states over creating a way to import drugs from Canada — a policy the Biden and Trump administrations both embraced to bring down health costs but which experts regard as having limited impact (Source: “FDA mulls drug importation with states,” Axios, April 12).

The FDA last week held its first meeting with five states — Florida, Colorado, Vermont, Maine and New Mexico — that have submitted reimportation plans or are thinking about doing so.

President Biden's executive order on promoting competition directed the FDA to work with states and Native American tribes on safely importing prescription drugs from Canada.


Black women in Ohio 2.2 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes, data shows

MaternalMortality_MorbidityRates_StandAloneGraphic_04.08.2022
According to the most-recent data, Black women in Ohio are 2.2 times more likely to die from a cause related to pregnancy and have a 1.85 times higher rate of maternal morbidity (i.e., health problems related to pregnancy and childbirth) than white women.
 
Differences in healthcare access and conditions such as housing, transportation and income, as well as the cumulative impacts of toxic stress and discrimination, all contribute to stark disparities in maternal outcomes across the state.
 
Improving maternal health and eliminating disparities are priorities of the Ohio Department of Health’s 2020-2022 State Health Improvement Plan.
 
Next week is the fifth annual Black Maternal Health Week, an event that coincides with National Minority Health Month. As part of its annual recognition of Minority Health Month, the Ohio Commission on Minority Health has released an extensive calendar of events. Throughout the month, HPIO is releasing new data graphics exploring health disparities in the state. More information and resources about health equity in Ohio are available on HPIO’s website.
 
HPIO plans to release a fact sheet on maternal mortality and morbidity in Ohio later this month.


DeWine announces funding for housing assistance program aimed at improving birth outcomes

Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that $2.5 million is going to the Coalition of Homelessness and Housing in Ohio “to help improve birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality by providing stable housing for low-income families” (Source: “Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announces $2.5 million for program to help pregnant women, improve birth outcomes,” WKYC-TV (Cleveland), April 6).
 
Gov. DeWine’s office said the Housing Assistance to Improve Birth and Child Outcomes Program will assess the impact of rental assistance on factors that contribute to infant mortality. The project aims to increase housing stability of low-income households with children while improving maternal and infant health outcomes.
 
The program is an expansion of Healthy Beginnings at Home (HBAH), a housing stabilization pilot project designed to improve maternal and infant health outcomes for low-income families that launched in 2017 with funding from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. That program, which provided 49 pregnant women in Columbus with rental assistance and other services, was implemented by CelebrateOne, a Columbus-based infant mortality prevention collaborative.
 
CelebrateOne contracted with HPIO to complete a final report summarizing the outcome and process evaluation results of HBAH. 


Federal report calls for overhaul of nursing home system

A new federal report calls for wholesale changes to the nursing home industry (Source: “Nursing home care, funding system need overhaul, report says,” Associated Press, April 6).
 
The 605-page report, released Wednesday by of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, found that nursing home residents are subjected to ineffective care and poor staffing, while facility finances are shrouded in secrecy and regulatory lapses go unenforced. The authors of the report insist that it could be an impetus to address issues that have gotten little more than lip service for decades, but have moved into the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“The public is so concerned about the quality of care that most people really fear their family having to be in a nursing home,” said Betty Ferrell, a nurse who chaired the report committee. “We’re very optimistic that our government officials will respond to what has really been a travesty.”


As National Minority Health Month begins, racial disparities in COVID vaccinations narrow, but persist

COVIDVaccineRacialGap_StandAloneGraphic_04.01.2022

click to enlarge image

The federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health kicks off National Minority Health Month today with a focus on addressing disparities in vaccination rates.

Although the difference in vaccination rates for Black and white Ohioans persists, the gap has decreased in recent months. According to a national study conducted by Harvard researchers, “lack of access to the COVID-19 vaccine among minority populations in the U.S., rather than lower willingness to receive the vaccine, may have played a greater role in the racial-ethnic disparities we experienced in the early phases of the U.S. vaccination campaign.”

As of March 31, 57% of white Ohioans and 45% of Black Ohioans had completed vaccines for COVID-19 (two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson). That gap in vaccination rates has narrowed from a 29% difference between the two groups in November 
to a 23% difference as of this week (see graphic above).

As part of its annual recognition of Minority Health Month, the Ohio Commission on Minority Health has released an extensive calendar of events. Throughout the month, HPIO plans to release new data graphics exploring health disparities in the state. More information and resources about health equity in Ohio is available on HPIO’s website.


More than 4 in 10 teens had mental health challenges during pandemic, CDC study found

More than 4 in 10 U.S. high school students said they felt persistently sad or hopeless during the pandemic, according to government findings released Thursday (Source: “Pandemic took a toll on teen mental health, US study says,” Associated Press, March 31).
 
Several medical groups have warned that pandemic isolation from school closures and lack of social gatherings has taken a toll on young people’s mental health.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the pandemic did not affect teens equally. LGBT youth reported poorer mental health and more suicide attempts than others. About 75% said they suffered emotional abuse in the home and 20% reported physical abuse. By comparison, half of heterosexual students reported emotional abuse and 10% reported physical abuse, the CDC said.


CMS expects health care spending to mirror inflation over next decade

U.S. health care spending is likely to grow at about the rate of inflation over the rest of the decade after the pandemic fueled a nearly 10% jump between 2019 and 2020, federal experts said Monday (Source: “New normal for health care spending,” Axios, March 29).
 
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services actuaries' projections in Health Affairs came with plenty of caveats. But if trends hold, out-of-pocket spending is going up, as is spending on private coverage, Medicare and Medicaid.
 
National health spending surged 9.7% in 2020, but is expected to have slowed to 4.2% growth in 2021. Spending is expected to grow an average of 5.1% between 2021 and 2030. Growth in the Gross Domestic Product is also projected to be 5.1% annually over the same period.